Healthy living

Advance care planning – glossary of terms

A simple explanation of many of the terms you may come across while discussing advance care planning.

Advance care planning (ACP)

Advance care planning (ACP) is an ongoing discussion between a patient, their carers/family and their health care professionals, about their values, beliefs, treatment and care options. In particular, their wishes for future care should they no longer be able to communicate their decisions at the time they are needed.

Advance Health Directive (AHD)

An Advance Health Directive is a legal document completed by an adult with full legal capacity which contains decisions regarding future treatment. It specifies the treatment(s) for which consent is provided or refused under specific circumstances.

Artificial feeding

Artificial feeding is provided when a person is unable to eat. It involves the administration of nutrition through a feeding tube which may be passed into the stomach from the nose or directly into the stomach through the abdominal wall.

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

Emergency measures to keep the heart pumping (by chest compression and/ or use of a defibrillator) and assisted ventilation when the heart and/or breathing have stopped.

Common law

Common law, also known as case law or precedent, is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals.

Common law directive

Under the common (or judge made) law, it is possible to make a ‘living will’, also called a ‘common law directive’ This is a general term for a written statement made in advance regarding the person’s wishes with respect to future treatment.



A guardian is a person appointed by the State Administrative Tribunal to act on your behalf. The State Administrative Tribunal determines which powers your guardian may exercise on your behalf.

Enduring guardian

The person you appoint to act on your behalf by completing the Enduring Power of Guardianship form. You determine the extent of your enduring guardian’s powers to make personal, lifestyle and treatment decisions on your behalf.

Health care professional

A health care professional is any qualified and registered doctor, nurse, allied health or dental professional who provides your medical and clinical treatment and care. It includes all of the following – chiropractor, dentist (including dental therapist, dental hygienist and dental prosthetist), medical practitioner, medical radiation technologist, midwife or nurse, occupational therapist, optometrist, osteopath, pharmaceutical chemist, physiotherapist, podiatrist and psychologist.

Intubation and ventilation

Intubation and ventilation may be used when a person is unable to breathe for themselves. Intubation is the passage of a tube (usually through a person’s mouth) into their lungs. Ventilation is the act of passing air through the tube.

Life-limiting condition

A life limiting condition is a disease, condition or injury that is likely to result in death, but not restricted to the terminal stage when death is imminent.

Life-prolonging measures

A life-prolonging measure means a medical, surgical or nursing procedure directed at supporting or maintaining a vital bodily function that is temporarily or permanently incapable of independent operation, and includes assisted ventilation and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Pain relief medication

Pain relief medication is any medicine given with the purpose of reducing pain. Pain medication may be given via a variety of means including by mouth, injection or through a patch applied to the skin.

Palliative care

Palliative care means a medical, surgical or nursing procedure directed at relieving a person’s pain, discomfort or distress, but does not include a life-sustaining measure.

Terminal illness

An illness or condition that is likely to result in death. The terminal phase of a terminal illness means the phase of the illness reached when there is no real prospect of recovery or remission of symptoms (on either a permanent or temporary basis).


This term means medical or surgical treatment including life-sustaining measures and palliative care, or dental treatment or other health care.

Treatment decision

Treatment decision, in relation to a person, means a decision to consent or refuse consent to the commencement or continuation of any treatment of the person.

Urgent treatment

Urgent treatment means treatment urgently needed by a patient:

  • to save the patient’s life
  • to prevent serious damage to the patient’s health
  • to prevent the patient from suffering or continuing to suffer significant pain or distress.

It does not include sterilisation.

Where to get help

Advance Health Directives

WA Cancer and Palliative Care Network telephone support
Phone: (08) 9222 2300

Enduring Powers of Guardianship

Office of the Public Advocate
Phone: 1300 858 455 (local call rates from land line only).
Fax: (08) 9278 7333


Cancer and Palliative Care Network

This publication is provided for education and information purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical care. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your healthcare professional. Readers should note that over time currency and completeness of the information may change. All users should seek advice from a qualified healthcare professional for a diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.

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